Michel had made some calculations, as the bookkeeper: even if the women only made small payments, there were sufficient funds for two new credits during the last year.
We handed over two more, one to Sifany with the rice mill.
It was her third. Also, her married daughter will get one as soon as there is enough money in the pool again. Sifany`s granddaughter which had wet me last year was standing a bit unsteady on her bowed legs and gave us a big smile. It is such a pleasure to be part of these women’s lives.
As we had visited before, the two widows who failed to make their payments, we suggested to simply write-off their credits, as well as the one for the lady that had gone overseas. We did not expect Roy`s strong reaction. This would send a completely wrong signal, as if others would hear about it; it might even jeopardize the whole project.
He insisted on visiting the two women and found strong words. We sat there feeling rather uncomfortable, but we could fully understand his intentions.
The only negative surprise this time was the folder for Chammi ……………… the payments for the last six month were missing!
The last contact we had with her was in the spring, when she wrote to us that she had an accident with the motorbike. As the pain had not vanished, she had gone to the hospital where she was diagnosed with gall stones. Due to the operation, she would have lost a lot of customers. On top of that her landlord had raised the rent to an extent that she had been forced to rent another, cheaper shop and had to make the country specific down payment.
To cut a long story short, I had sent her 400 Swiss francs.
Two months thereafter, Humaid had been in Hambantota and told us that the shop was still closed; and that he was not able to get hold of Chammi.
She sent an SMS by the end of May that she was back to work, doing quite well and that she was getting married. There would only be a little reception as they did not have much money.
We sent her our warm wishes and promised her that we would meet her and her husband in the fall.
Her welcome was as warm as always and we did not know about the missing rates at the time. We recognized her being pregnant and that some of her upper teeth on the right side had gone missing.
As a reminder: Chammi had lost her first husband in a motorbike accident, when she was seven months pregnant. Ten days later, she miscarried the baby and went back to her parent’s house in Hambantota. Shortly after that, the tsunami hit.
We did share her happiness but Roy was very blunt about Chammi’s husband: he was a criminal drug addict!
We could simply not believe that this was true and tried to meet her husband without prejudice and to get a picture of the situation by ourselves. They visited us at “our” house and he made a very pleasant impression.
Michel and I had talked about the invisible caste system in Sri Lanka and that someone born into the wrong family would never have a chance of social acceptance. This seemed to be the case with this open and friendly young man.
He was obviously very fond of Chammi and looked forward to becoming a father. He had been working in Kuwait and was now a fisherman working on his brother’s boat.
Chammi emphasized that he was a big help to her. As she could not ride the bike herself anymore, he would always bring her to work and also, pick her up. He had even helped her with cutting fabric!
We proudly showed them pictures of our grandsons and pointing at one of the little one in his car seat he stated: he hardly could wait to hold something little in his arms himself and he would love to have something similar for his baby ………. the best would be one with wheels.
He let us know that Chammi had told him about the assistance she had received from us and I could not help but get the impression that he looked at us like a little child at Santa Claus. But our overall good impression succeeded and we went to bed with a good feeling.
Roy`s information the next morning was a punch in the face to say the least.
In the spring when Chammi had asked for help to rent the cheaper shop, her husband had been jailed because of drug dealing and most probably most of the 400 Swiss francs, had been used to bail him out. Besides that, he had not set a foot on his brother’s boat for six months and all he did all day long was to ride Chammi`s motorbike wearing dark sunglasses.
After his imprisonment they had bought a whole container of used cloth in Colombo and had sold the whole lot within days for a huge profit. Roy had no idea where all the money had gone. Roy then drove us to the abandoned shop where her shop sign was still hanging and it went from bad to worse.
…….. Whether we would like to meet his wife????
We found her in a shabby environment at the house of her parents. We could not follow her flood of words but the scars she was showing were too fresh to be from the tsunami. She was holding an approximately three year old girl in her arms which was the spitting image of her father.
While he hardly could wait to hold a little baby in his arms, there was his daughter scratching her legs bloody because of scabies.
They had lived at his parents’ house and she had dared to question him about the motorbike and the nature of his relationship to Chammi. He had beaten her out of the house and into the hospital. She had a 20 centimeter long scar on her right knee and her desperation and her tears were hard to bear.
He would not take care of his daughter and she had to pawn her earrings and her cousin a ring, in order to pay the hospital bill. She would not be able to come up with 20 Swiss francs for a lawyer and there was nothing she could do. Along with the wedding pictures that she showed us, were the receipts from the pawn shop.
I had an envelope with money in my purse which I intended to give to Chammi behind the back of the men and had now changed my mind. I told the woman to come to Zariya`s house the next day with the pawn shop receipts and she would also get the money for the lawyer. Whenever she needed something she should turn to Zariya and she should thank God on her knees that she got rid of her husband. Roy did not translate that part and so I thanked God that I was not born in a country where an abusive, drug addicted husband was still better than none at all!
He had seduced Chammi and will not let go of her as long she has something left. Their marriage is not legal and it should have set off my alarm that she was six months pregnant, four months after the wedding …………
We bought a baby stroller and various other things for the baby and gave it to her at the shop. We had seen her in the morning on her bike. At that time, her husband was most probably still in bed. She must have been aware that we were informed; maybe she even learned that we visited his wife. I emphasized to her that she and the baby could turn to Zariya for help at any time. To look at her and to imagine that she would get beaten up in the evening because she had been too stupid to get money out of us made me literally sick.
In a country where everything can be bought, Michel was daydreaming about ways of keeping the man away from Chammi forever (would have cost less than the amount of her credit). Roy warned him not to underestimate the criminal power of the man and to consider that Zariya and her sisters might be endangered, if he might only think of something like that.
At the beginning of the Micro Credit Program, I had pointed out one of the advantages to working with widows: no drinking husband stealing the egg money …………….
We only can hope that she will have a healthy baby, will keep a couple of teeth and loses everything he is taking interest in as soon as possible.